This month, St. John’s is exploring the possibility of adding a prayground to our sanctuary to help us welcome families with young children. We hope these frequently asked questions will be helpful to you in reflecting on the possibility of a prayground at St. John’s.
What is a “prayground?” A prayground is a space in a church sanctuary for infants and toddlers to use during worship. Families can sit near it and participate in worship while children play, learn, and engage in the congregation’s worship in an age-appropriate way. A prayground lets young children wiggle, play, and worship God without having to leave the sanctuary.
Is it noisy? Praygrounds are carpeted and contain only soft toys, books, and coloring materials. Usually, praygrounds have little to no impact on other people’s hearing. Some congregations have found that their sanctuaries actually get quieter when children use the prayground.
Is it disrespectful for children to play during church? Not at all! God created children to learn about the world by playing. When they get older, children will learn how to worship God by sitting still, standing to sing, or kneeling quietly to pray like adults do, but before then, children can worship God with creative play, coloring, and reading.
Why do we need one? We have a nursery. Right now, our congregation loves and encourages children’s participation, but we need a way to support families with infants and toddlers. Using the nursery is sometimes necessary, but it requires children and adults to leave the service. By remaining in worship, children can easily participate in simple ways.
Do other churches have praygrounds? Yes, it is common for churches to have praygrounds. Several of our church neighbors have praygrounds, including Redemption Lutheran Church in Northeast Philadelphia and Trinity Lutheran Church in Fort Washington. You can contact their pastors if you’d like to learn more: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What would we need to do, and where would it be? We would need to remove a pew or half-pew, like we did to accommodate the wheelchair seating and the sound desk, and add an area rug. A pew would border the prayground to seat children’s families. We will listen to the preferences of families with young children and of people with hearing impairments when considering a location, but we think it would probably be near the middle or at the back of the sanctuary.
Our sanctuary is historic and beautiful. Would a prayground affect its beauty? We don’t think so. Praygrounds aren’t invisible, but because they are for children, they have a low profile. The toys could be removed for weddings or funerals. Finally, the sight of young children playing, worshiping, and learning about Jesus is beautiful, too.
Is this going to be expensive? No. We would need to buy some items to furnish the prayground, but we can also use some of the items currently in our nursery.
What if it doesn’t work? We would be able to make adjustments to the prayground if we found we needed more or less space, less noise, more seating, etc. – and we would be able to remove it and replace the pew if it didn’t work at all.